February: Mini Frittatas

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Mini Fritattas with script

Buon giorno!

Here it is! if you are looking for a healthy snack or breakfast – quick and great for “on the go” – MINI FRITTATAS are your new best friend! It’s a no brainer really. So you like Frittatas – why not make small individual ones ahead so you can just grab one – or two when you are hungry or when you need something fast. This has really saved me in my pursuit of healthier eating at the start of the new year. Making them ahead and having them ready to eat cold or warmed in the microwave has made life so easy for me.

I have always loved Frittatas, coming from an Italian household. In our house, growing up, Frittata was a more involved undertaking – making a large one for the whole family and, of course especially at Easter, with the traditional partially fried and baked one inverted onto a platter and usually served cold or room temperature on the holiday table.

Having these little ones ready to go at any time in just the right size is a great assist to a busy life, especially when they contain all the ingredients I love: eggs, spinach, sweet tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano. If I want a change I can always switch to a new green or something different like adding scallions, swiss chard, or even meat like ham or sausage.

Lately I have just kept them simple and healthy with the ingredients you see here. For example, notice the egg whites instead of all whole eggs. You can, of course, use whole eggs if you wish for a richer result.

For a fun make ahead Brunch item, you can’t beat these little wonders stacked on a platter. They are bright and colorful and will delight your guests — but you better make extra!

Have fun with these! Mix it up and try different ingredients. Check out the other Frittata ideas on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE. You will love having these to grab quickly from your frig.



Makes: about 9

Prep: 15 minutes

Bake: about 15-20 minutes


3 Whole large eggs

7 Large egg whites

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

1/3 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

Salt and pepper to taste – for egg mixture

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach

10 Campari Tomatoes – chopped

Salt and pepper to taste – for vegetable mixture


Place the eggs and egg whites in a large bowl and whisk together along with the basil, grated cheese, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a fry pan, add 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, garlic, baby spinach, Campari Tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add this vegetable mixture to the egg mixture in the bowl.

Spray a muffin tin with Pam.

Ladle the frittata mixture into each muffin cup filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 degres for 15-20 minutes until firm. They will puff up but will go down some once they cool.

Now just turn the pan over and pop out the frittatas!

Either serve or refrigerate for later use or to grab on the go like I do!

Eat cold or warmed in the microwave.

My refrigerator is never without them!


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April:Creamed Spinach Italian Style

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Buon giorno!

Lately when I dine at a “fancy” steakhouse, the menu usually offers the obligatory Creamed Spinach as a traditional side to my choice of steak. This side dish is priced on the menu between $8-$12. depending… Wow – let’s hear it for Popeye’s favorite food! Who knew it would demand such a premium? I am about to save you a few bucks – you’re welcome! In addition, many recipes for this involve a number of steps and a sometimes involved process. I think I have an alternative that is easy, takes just a few quick minutes and does not cost anywhere near the usual menu price. Here it is: CREAMED SPINACH, ITALIAN STYLE. This one is so easy – you won’t believe it.

I have to agree though that this seems to be an ideal side dish for a grilled steak or chop. The restaurants have a point there. However, usually you find it with the spinach so pulverized that the substance you are served resembles a green goo. I tend to leave my spinach leaves whole for this dish. Not only does it make the process simpler, but it tastes less like baby food and more like a delicious leafy green. Go ahead and try this – and see why I have given up ordering it in restaurants and prefer to make my own at home.

What makes it even remotely Italian? As always, it is all about the ingredients: fresh spinach, fresh garlic, mascarpone cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano – Yum and done!


Serves: 4

Prep and cook: 15 minutes


20 Oz. Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves (approx. 2 boxes in your produce dept.)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic, sliced into thirds

1/2 Cup Mascarpone Cheese

1/3 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste (Remember that a little salt – enhances the flavor of almost everything!)


Heat olive oil in shallow pan. Add Garlic slices and cook just a minute to infuse. Remove the garlic!

Add the spinach leaves to the pan while the oil is very hot at medium high heat.

Creamed Spinach 1

Stir them until just wilted. I like to use tongs which make it easy to flip the leaves.

Now add the mascarpone and reduce the heat. When it begins to melt in, add the grated cheese.

Creamed Spinach 2

Heat through and stir to combine as the cheese melts in.

Taste for seasoning and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately with some of the grated cheese sprinkled on top.

TIP: You will want to serve this CREAMED SPINACH, ITALIAN STYLE fairly soon after making it while its consistency is thick –  as it releases liquid if it sits awhile. It is so easy and quick – you can make it just before dining without much fuss.


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Risotto with Greens

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Risotto with Greens finish with script

Buon giorno!

Although risotto is more frequently thought of as a Northern Italian dish, the other regions of Italy have their favorite preparations of this dish. RISOTTO WITH GREENS is one such traditional preparation from Tuscany. It may seem to be a healthier alternative, with the addition of greens, in particular swiss chard, but it is no less tasty. This is a hearty vegetarian risotto not to be overlooked.

More often, this dish is considered for spring because of its use of spring greens. These days, with so many of the greens available all year long, we can enjoy the dish anytime. The Tuscans are known for gathering a number of different kinds of greens in the spring – arugula, dandelions etc. Actually though, any of your favorite greens can be used for this risotto. I have used swiss chard here because I simply love it for its tenderness and sweetness. (Either rainbow or silverbeet is fine.) You can also use spinach, broccoli raab, or the spring dandelions, chicory, or arugula. Even kale is an option. You choose!

As a tasty partner for this vegetarian risotto, I have added an idea for a quick and easy chicken recipe using Marsala. The addition of the chicken thighs, cooked quickly in Marsala wine offers a delightful flavor pairing. With or without the chicken – you will love this risotto!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 45-50 minutes


1/4 c. Olive Oil

1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice – traditional for risotto

1 Onion chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

5 Cups Greens: swiss chard as used here, or any other green of your choice (about 1 1/4 lb)

6-8 Oz. Wild Mushrooms ( or regular white button mushrooms, if you prefer)

6 Cups Warm Vegetable Broth

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Clean the greens well with cold water and drain well.

Risotto with Greens 1

Cook the onion, greens, and mushrooms for 5 minutes in the olive oil. It will appear that the amount of greens is huge but they cook down a lot.

Risotto with Greens 2

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Risotto with Greens 3

Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil.

Risotto with Greens 4

Heat the broth so that it will be warm when ready to add it to the risotto without reducing the temperature of the ingredients.

Begin to add the warm broth a large ladle at a time allowing the liquid to cook off before adding the next ladle. Make sure to continue to stir as the liquid disappears. The rice will swell.

Continue this procedure of adding the broth slowly until all of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is tender to the bite.

Risotto with Greens 5

Turn off the heat, and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Then add the grated cheese and incorporate.

Drizzle each serving with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with plenty of grated cheese.

If you decide to pair the risotto with the chicken – see below for the recipe.


Serves 4

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Marsala Wine

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley


Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place oil in the pan and heat.

Add the seasoned thighs and sear on each side.

Add the parsley and Marsala.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 1

Cover and cook at a strong simmer for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally during the cooking process.

The wine will cook off, and the thighs will glaze and acquire a lovely color and sheen.

Risotto with Greens - chicken 2

Serve along side of the RISOTTO WITH GREENS for a great authentic Tuscan meal.


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Potatoes with Tomatoes

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Tomatoes potatoes finish with script

Buon giorno!

POTATOES WITH TOMATOES or is it tomatoes with potatoes? You say potato and I say… I digress. Sometimes the simplest things are the best, and that is a very good thing because there are days when you just don’t have the time to be clever with everything. This side dish is for one of THOSE days. It is quick and easy – a great looking dish to serve – and marone.. the flavor! Those Campari tomatoes are extra sweet and add so much to the dish that regular tomatoes just won’t contribute – so I would strongly recommend using them here. This is a great skillet side to serve with chicken, burgers, anything grilled – you choose. No matter what you serve it with – your family and guests will thank you.

You will want this dish as one of your go-to backups!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes


3 Medium – Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – cooked, skins left on

About 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

6 Campari Tomatoes, quartered

1/2 Sweet Onion sliced

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Pinch of Red Pepper flakes (optional)


Clean and cook your potatoes first. If you really want to save time – microwave the potatoes. You want them fork tender.

Then chop them into large chunky pieces.

Cook the garlic, tomatoes, onion, and basil in olive oil on medium high for about 6 minutes until onion is tender.

Tomatoes potatoes 1

Add the potatoes and toss in pan. Let cook through another minute.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with fresh Basil leaves and drizzle with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

If you have the time, and want to be more creative with another blast of color, add some yellow and green peppers to the pan with the onions and tomatoes.

So whether you say potato or po-tahhh- to, give this POTATOES WITH TOMATOES a whirl.


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August: Zucchini Agrodolce

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Buon giorno!

So you planted zucchini in your garden this year and now you are up to your eyeballs in green squash! Your family is tired of zucchini  – what to do? Solution: find a new and more interesting way to cook it! Italians love their zucchini – also called courgettes, and every Italian garden has it. This recipe may not be entirely new, as it is an old preparation coming from the island of Sicily, but ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE (sweet and sour) is interesting and VERY tasty. It is not your typical zucchini accompanied by tomatoes, onions, etc. This is totally different and includes some of the favorite ingredients of Sicilian recipes – pignoli (pine nuts),  golden raisins and a tiny bit of anchovies. The anchovies are very subtle in the dish. They are chopped in tiny pieces, and as in many other dishes which include them, they melt into the sauce giving it a lovely flavor. However no one sees them, or knows they are there!

Some of my family members do not care for zucchini unless it is cleverly disguised in some way. We ALL  love this, and you will love it too!


Serves: 2

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


1 Fresh Medium Zucchini

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 large Clove Garlic cut in half

1 Sprig Fresh Oregano (or a teaspoon dried)

2 1/2 Tbsp. While Wine Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Water

2 Teaspoons Sugar

3 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

3 Tbsp. Golden Raisins

2 Anchovies – patted dry and cut into tiny pieces

Shavings of Pecorini or Provolone Cheese for garnish (you can also use grated)


Clean a medium fresh zucchini. Leave the skin on .

Zucchini 1

Cut off the ends and discard. Then cut the zucchini lengthwise in half – then again into quarters. If the pieces are large enough – cut them one more time so you have spears.

Zucchini 2

Heat the oil in a shallow pan, add the garlic and oregano, and cook a couple of minutes until the garlic is beginning to brown. Do not burn the garlic! Keep it moving in the pan. Then remove and discard the garlic. In this dish you only want its essence.

Zucchini 3

Now add the vinegar, water, and sugar. Mix in.

Now add the zucchini spears, tossing them in the pan to coat, cover the pan, and cook about 10-12 minutes at medium high. Stir occasionally .

Zucchini 4

When finished, add the pignoli, raisins, and anchovies. Toss a little, and cook a couple of minutes more at medium high, uncovered.

Zucchini 5

Taste and see if any salt is needed. Usually the anchovies take care of the need for salt. By the way, at this point, the anchovies are quite invisible.

Serve with shavings of Pecorino or Provolone or grated.

This ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE is so delicious, you will want to make it again and again. It is just as suitable as a side for a fancy summer meal as it is for middle of the week dining with your family. Easy and quick – you will be using up your supply of garden fresh zucchini in no time!


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Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci

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Chickpea Sauce!

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Today we travel to the region of Apulia or Puglia – the “heel of the boot” of Italy, geographically speaking. Well, which is it – Apulia or Puglia? Actually both are correct – the Latin form of Apulia and the contemporary name of Puglia. So you choose!

While we visit, we will sample what some might call its signature pasta – Orecchiette or “little ears” because of the shape. This area is well know for this lovely pasta made of semolina. They enjoy it with many sauces – but the one we will concentrate on here is ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI. This is a simple sauce and easy to make from chickpeas or ceci. No not your cousin “Cheech” from New Jersey – Ceci – prounounced (chechee) The sauce is actually a thick puree of the chickpeas with a little tomato added along with some garlic and rosemary. It is healthy and vegetarian. So simple – so delicious!

Apulia is an often forgotten area of Italy that has not been as well travelled as Tuscany, for instance, that gets all the press. However, this is an extraordinarily beautiful area of amazing seaside landscapes, providing an abundance of shellfish and also almonds, olive oil, and vegetables of note.  It is definitely a region of distinctive wine production with Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes taking the lead.

Orecchiette pasta is very commonly found these days at most grocers in the US. This dish is especially good with this pasta, although you can use other shapes if you like.


(Orecchiette with Pureed Chickpea Sauce)

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes


1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta (shaped like little ears or saucers) prepared according to package directions

2 16 oz. Cans Chickpeas, drained

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cups Chicken Broth

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Medium Onion Chopped

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3 Bay Leaves

Dash Red Pepper flakes

1/4 C. Additional Olive Oil

5 Tbsp. Tomato Paste diluted in 1 – 14 oz Can of Chopped Tomatoes. You can Puree the tomatoes or add them chopped for a more chunky appearance.

Salt and Pepper to taste


Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook at a strong simmer: the chickpeas, olive oil, broth, garlic, onion, Rosemary, Bay Leaves and red pepper flakes for about 15 minutes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 1

Remove the Rosemary springs and the Bay Leaves and discard them.

Cool the ingredients a bit and then add all from the pan into a blender, Vitamix, or food processor. Process adding 1/4 C. Olive Oil in a stream until the  entire mixture is a smooth puree.

Add the puree back to the original pan and then add the Tomato Paste and tomatoes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 2

Add Salt and Pepper to taste and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes covered. The sauce will be thick when finished and is supposed to be. You can add some water if you require it thinner.

Be sure to taste for seasoning, adding adequate salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.

Serve with grated Provolone or Parmigiano – Reggiano.

The perfect wine to serve with your ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI would definitely be a Primitivo from Southern Italy. The Primitivo is very similar to Zinfandel and is a lighter red. Cantele and even Layer Cake offer nice ones.


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Sicilian Couscous Salad

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Buon giorno!

Couscous – Italian?? Really? Yes and yes! In Sicily, it is called Cuscusu. This SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD  is certainly something you may find in Sicily. You will definitely find it on the Northern coast in Trapani where they often serve it with assorted fish. How does this happen? In my cooking classes, we talk quite a bit about the influences of history and conquerors of old putting their stamp on ingredients and recipes. Take a little trip back in time with me.

The island of Sicily had the fortune or misfortune, depending on your point of view, of being the “main dish” on the table of battle for centuries dating back to ancient times for many of its surrounding land hungry neighbors. These included the Greeks – evidenced in Agrigento in the Valley of the Temples, with the remains of “Acropolis-like” structures, built and left by ancient conquering hordes.

Valley of the Temples

The Romans put in their two cents as well. Then along came the Arabs of North Africa from 827-1061. With them came a tremendous influence in food and ingredients. The Arabs brought berries, apricots, almonds, spices, pistachios, rice, and sugar among other food items which became staples on the island. One of the dishes that became a part of the cuisine of Sicily under the occupation of the Arab conquerors was couscous. It is a popular ingredient even today – from the tiny kernel type to the larger pearl variety.

Ingredients: This SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD is a beautiful reflection of the Sicilian adoption of the ingredient, couscous. It is a lovely representation of the healthy recipes of the Mediterranean Diet.The large pearl or Israeli couscous is perfect for it. In Sicily, it is sometimes called “fregola”. It cooks quickly and is easy to work with.

Pearl Couscous

The greens used are “mache” or “mache rosettes – also referenced as “lamb’s lettuce”. This is a beautiful sweet and somewhat nutty lettuce. You may fall in love with it, as I have. Guests always ask what it is and love its tender sweetness. Another reason to love it is that it is beautiful to serve. The rosettes look like flowers on the plate. OK – so it’s French! In fact, it has been used and grown in France since the 17th century. No matter where it is from – it is a lovely lettuce. You must try it!

Mache rosettes

I like a touch of sweetness in the ingredients for this salad – thus the mango and some insanely good ginger honey beets. You can find the baby ones already prepared at Whole Foods sold in packages. If you don’t have access to these – Make your own! Peel some small beets and drizzle them with olive oil, honey and throw in some candied ginger pieces or slices of fresh ginger. Close them up in a foil packet and roast them for about 50 minutes in a 450 oven. Let them sit a few minutes and then open the packet. You can make them ahead and refrigerate them.

Goat cheese provides some savory and the toasted pignoli are such a Sicilian delight and add a nutty crunch. Just before serving, you will add a drizzle of a Balsamic reduction or glaze. If you have Saba – a wonderful reduced form of Balsamico – this would be just perfect!

This is simply a gorgeous salad to serve in warmer months – sooo fresh tasting. It reminds me of the Mediterranean breezes present on the island of Sicily during this time of year.


Serves: about 4

Prep: 30 minutes


1 Cup uncooked Pearl or Israeli Couscous

1 Cup Chopped Fresh Mango

1/4 C. Basil

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Drizzle of Wine Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 C. toasted pignoli (pine nuts)

Large handful of Mache or Mache Rosettes (or other tender sweet greens)

3 oz. Goat Cheese

Small Ginger Honey Beets – if using tiny ones – about 2 per person (See instructions above for making your own!)

Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Reduction or Balsamic Glaze – if you have Saba – this is the time to use it!

Fresh cut chives and/or Chive Flowers


Cook the couscous – usually 1 C. couscous to 1 /4 C. Water – Bring to Boil – Cover and Simmer about 10 minutes. Strain if needed when done.

Chop the Mango and Basil and add to the couscous along with the Oil and Vinegar, Salt and pepper.

Add the pignoli and gently mix together.

Couscous Salad

Set aside or refrigerate. You can make this early in the day.

When ready to serve – Place some mache on each plate. Spoon some of the couscous mixture on top .

Just before serving, add some goat cheese and beet pieces to each plate.

Drizzle lightly with a little Balsamic glaze or Saba for a touch of added sweetness.  Sprinkle with chives – Serve!

Try this SICILIAN COUSCOUS SALAD as a side, a first course, or a simple salad. A guaranteed hit out of the park! (Ahhh the baseball references!)


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Braised Radicchio

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Redicchio Brasato

Radicchio finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Northern Italians have their favorite veggies, and Radicchio is one of them. They grill it and serve it in salads. They also use it frequently in polenta dishes and in their risottos. BRAISED RADICCHIO or Redicchio Bresato  is a Northern Italian preparation featuring this beautiful ruby vegetable, on its own, with some classic Northern ingredients. It is an easy prep, with a delicious result. Topped with one of the Cheeses of the North, Gorgonzola, it offers a beautiful combination of savory, sweet, and sharp.



Serves: about 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 Heads Radicchio, cleaned and quartered lengthwise

Finely Sliced Red Onion

1/3 C. Golden Raisins, soaked for about 1/2 hour in warm water and then drained

A couple of Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3/4 C. Wild Mushrooms – tiny ones if possible or slice the larger ones

1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar

Splash Dry White Wine

Pinch sugar

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Gorgonzola crumbled into bits for topping – Try to avoid the prepackaged Gorgonzola which is dry.

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil if desired to finish


Rinse your radicchio and cut off the bottom root area – quarter the heads.

Radicchio 1

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion until just tender – about 4 minutes.

Then add the vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.

Add the radicchio, rosemary, drained raisins, and mushrooms. Add water and and season to taste with Salt and Pepper.

Radicchio 2

Cover the pan and let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Check after 8 minutes.

Place in a serving dish or individual plates and top with Gorgonzola. Drizzle with Extra Virgin if desired  – and serve!

BRAISED RADICCHIO is so easy to prepare and is a perfect choice for a side dish to grilled meats and fish.


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Green Beans with Tomatoes and Poached Egg

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Beans and Tomatoes finish with script

Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest and most wholesome of meals can be the very best. Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity but also for the importance it attaches to ingredients. With Lent, on its way, ingredients become even more important, as we look for meals that are hearty but light and that appeal to our senses with color, aroma, and, of course, taste. GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGG is a dish that hits all the marks. It is basically a one dish meal, it is amazingly delicious and satisfying and – it is actually good for you! It is also a good example of the use of fresh but simple ingredients coming together to forma typically rustic Italian dish that satisfies.

Vegetarians will love this one as it does not contain meat, but those who absolutely insist on a little meat can add 1/2 c. Chopped Pancetta to it. Actually, this dish will satisfy everyone without the meat. It is filling, soothing, satisfying, and comforting all at the same time.

Growing up, it was one of my favorite dishes. I loved to puncture the egg yolk with my fork and let it run into the sauce making the sauce velvety and rich. This is sooo good, I can just taste it.

The egg: As for the egg, my experience involved a poached egg, but you could just as easily serve the dish with a fried egg. The key is that yolk!

The veggies: FRESH Green beans are a must, however. You’ll want to cook them just to the point of tenderness. The tomatoes must be fresh as well for maximum flavor.

This is a mostly fresh dish that comes together rather quickly. You can serve it without the egg as a beautiful side dish, but we enjoyed it often as a main course with the egg adding protein and tremendous richness.

This dish loudly “speaks Italian” by nature, and the process will be familiar to many. MANGIA!


Serves: 4

Prep: about 20-30 minutes


1/4 C. Olive Oil

3/4 lb. Fresh Green Beans

1 Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

(1/2 C. Chopped Pancetta – if you must have meat)

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 C. Water

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

10 oz. Fresh Cherry or Grape Tomatoes – sliced in 1/2

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

4 Poached Eggs (or fried)

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese


Cook the beans, onion, garlic, parsley, water, tomatoes, and red pepper in the oil for about 5 minutes at a strong simmer – medium high heat.

Then Cover and cook until tender (not soggy!) – about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare your poached eggs, and place one at the side of each serving.

To serve your GREEN BEANS WITH TOMATOES AND POACHED EGGS , make sure to have plenty of grated cheese on hand for the top. Prepare for simple joy!


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Brussel Sprouts with Candied Pecans and Oranges

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Sprouts finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

Before you go down the Thanksgiving rabbit hole – give this one a look! Don’t like Brussel Sprouts?? Chances are you are not roasting them which gives them such deep flavor without tasting ..well.. “cabbagy”. Another thing you are perhaps not doing is preparing them this way – BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CANDIED PECANS AND ORANGES. The flavor impact with this dish packs a wallop! Add a touch of Balsamic glaze and you just might create the tastiest dish on your Thanksgiving table. The added benefit of this recipe is the pecans – pe-cahns as they say in the South. These gems are great to snack on with a drink, to give as gifts, and to add to salads. And away we go…


Serves: 4



1 C. Pecan Halves

3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp. Salt

Dash of Cayenne Pepper

1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon

1 Tbsp. Melted Butter

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely


Mix first 5 ingredients together in a bowl.

Spiced Pecans 1

Add melted butter and stir.

Spread pecans out on a foil covered sheet sprayed with Pam.

Spiced Pecans 2

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven – stir as they cool. The pecans will harden within minutes.

Spiced Pecans 3

Keep in an air tight container until ready to use.



1 lb. Brussel Sprouts bottoms trimmed and cut in half

Olive Oil

1/4 C. Salt Pork chopped in bits

Zest of an orange

Leaves from 1 stalk Fresh Rosemary

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 C. Cried Cranberries

3/4 C. Mandarin Orange slices

3/4 C. Spiced Pecans – instructions above

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish

Balsamic Glaze – drizzle (optional)


Spread the Brussel Sprouts halves on foil covered pan.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Distribute bits of salt pork on top.

Add orange zest and Rosemary.

Roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Stir once during roasting.

Sprouts 1

When finished pour into a bowl and add the cranberries, mandarin orange slices, and spiced pecans.

Toss and serve with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – and drizzle with a tiny bit of Balsamic Glaze if you like.

These BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CANDIED PECANS AND ORANGES are so delicious, you’ll want to serve them all through your holidays!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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Potato Gratin with Gorgonzola and Apples

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Potatoes finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

In Northern Italy, vegetables and fruits are often mixed together in a baked form – sometimes a pie. The combination is of course less sweet and can be more of a side dish. In Abruzzo, also, you will find potato pie created by layering potatoes and cheese. The French, of course, “gratin” everything!  POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES  is a sort of variation of these ideas.

 POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES  is a lovely layered side dish using the sharper cheese made mostly in Northern Italy – Piemonte, Lombardia etc. You may use the Gorgonzola or a nice creamy Blue Cheese as well to create the desired effect. It is a given that Blue Cheese and Gorgonzola are both great compliments to apples and potatoes both. The sharp cheese is not prominent in this dish nor should it be. The flavors all blend. Even the apples are more of an essence than a main event in the dish.

It is a simple dish to create and partners well with grilled or roasted meats or as a buffet item. It is creamy and delicious with a slightly crunchy top.


Serves 6

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: about 55 minutes


3-4 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes, cleaned, unpeeled, and sliced – enough for 2 layers in your selected pan

1-2 Fuji (or other sweet) Apples, peeled and sliced thinly


1/3 lb. Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese, crumbled

2 C. Half and Half

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano grated

Fresh Breadcrumbs for the top

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a final drizzle


Oil a 9×12 or 13 inch pan

Place one layer of potatoes in the pan slightly overlapping.

Potatoes 1

Add a little salt and pepper.

Place a layer of apples over the potatoes slightly overlapping.

Potatoes 2

Sprinkle with flour and then with all of the Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese. Try not to use the pre-crumbled as it can be a little dry.

Potatoes 3

Repeat with another potato layer.

Add a little salt and pepper.

Pour the half and half over all, trying to distribute evenly.

Sprinkle top with Parmigiano.

Top with fresh breadcrumbs and drizzle a little Extra Virgin.

Potatoes 5

Bake covered at 350 degrees, with foil cover,  for about 45 minutes – placing foil or a cookie sheet underneath in case it bubbles out.

Remove the foil from the top and continue to bake another 10-15 minutes uncovered or until all is tender and bubbly.

To brown further, place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to desired golden color.

Potato and Apple Gratin finish with script

Your POTATO GRATIN WITH GORGONZOLA AND APPLES is ready to serve! This is a great buffet dish.


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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Orange and Ginger Vegetables

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Buon giorno!

Most people assume “giardiniera” when they think of Italian pickled vegetables. Of course, they would be right! This would be the traditional style of Italian pickled veggies – in the jar, lots of vinegar, cauliflower and a little “heat”. ORANGE AND GINGER VEGETABLES are much different – no canning, no jar, no intense vinegar that makes your nose itch.

Obviously, this is not a long term traditional “pickle” we are talking about here, the kind that uses only vinegar to preserve vegetables for canning or the long term. However, these vegetables do keep for several days in the refrigerator and you can make them ahead! YAY!

The veggies in this “pickle” are simply gorgeous in their jewel tones. This is easy to make and is the perfect partner to almost any meat or fish dish. They offer that much needed acid that you long for when looking for balance in your entrée.

Marcona Almonds are suggested as they are meaty, salty and really add some savory to the sweet dressing. A Spanish almond, they are rounded, plump, flatter than the almonds you know and are fantastic! They can be found in your specialty cheese area or sometimes with produce. Ask your grocer! If you can’t access them, use regular whole almonds, roasted a little with some olive oil and salt.

Serve them on the side – Serve them as a bed for grilled or roasted meat or fish, or on top of your favorite greens. Serve them as part of your antipasti. Any way you do it – these veggies will be unique and beautiful on your plate.

The vinaigrette for these vegetables is citrus based. You can use the leftover for your salads or as a marinade for chicken. How can you lose here?

Think of this as your new favorite side dish! You know how the usual suspects get kind of “old” – the cheesy veggies, the green beans. Yawn…  Well then, pickle THIS!

pickled veggies finish 3 with script

Let’s get to the pickle…


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 1 hour


2 Large or 3 Medium Fresh Peeled Beets (can be yellow or red beets)

1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus – stalks chopped into thirds

1 Large Purple Onion – very coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. Wild Mushrooms sliced (I like wild – you can use what you like!)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

Drizzle of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Marcona Almonds

Sliced Figs or Plums

Watercress or Arugula


1/3 C. Olive Oil

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

1/8 C. Orange Juice

1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard

1/2 Tsp. Powdered Ginger

1 Tbsp. Honey

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Roast the peeled beets first separately. You can do this a day ahead if you like. Place them in foil, drizzled with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Seal up the foil and Bake at 450 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and keep sealed another 15 minutes. Open foil carefully to release steam. Refrigerate until ready to use then slice or chop into 1-1  1/2 inch pieces.

In a bowl, mix the asparagus, onion, mushrooms, and herbs.

Drizzle with  a little olive oil and lay the mixture out in a single layer on a foil lined pan. Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

pickled veggies 1

When cool, add the beets, figs or plums, and almonds. Toss gently with some of the vinaigrette. DO NOT DROWN the veggies. A little goes a long way.

Serve them cold or at room temperature.

Just before serving – add a handful of watercress or arugula – or garnish with fresh parsley.

Simple?? Definitely! But Orange and Ginger Vegetables are just dynamite!


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Pasta Salad Alla Norma

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Buon giorno!

One of the classic Sicilian pasta dishes is the famous Pasta Alla Norma. There are many variations of this dish mainly consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, and Ricotta Salata Cheese along with some hot pepper flakes.  It is a personal favorite of mine which made me curious about how it might be if one were to serve it as a pasta salad at room temperature with a few additional touches – and thus we have PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA.

Before we dive into the recipe, it is probably a good idea to answer a question first: Who exactly is Norma and why does she get a pasta dish named for her? Norma was the tragic heroine of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name. This opera and character was so revered in the 19th century by the Sicilian people that they named a pasta dish for her. The opera is heavy on the melodrama including much about fire and funeral pyres – thus the inclusion of hot pepper flakes in the dish.

This rendition is more of a room temperature pasta salad including all of the classically required ingredients and the addition of a couple of extras like the famous Sicilian olive called Castelvetrano after a Sicilian town in the province of Trapani. You might know these olives by their absolutely brilliant and vivid green color – almost a blue green. They are gorgeous, mild, and fruity. I just love them and include them in cooking because of their mildness and extraordinary color. They contribute to giving this dish its gorgeous presentation.

Add in some red wine vinegar and pignoli nuts – and you end up with some “wow”!

This is a really flavorful dish. My husband who likes meat in everything makes a couple of exceptions and this is one of them. He just loves it!

Traditionally Pasta Alla Norma calls for shaved Ricotta Salata – a solid salty ricotta cheese which I suggest here. However, if you can’t find it, a nice Pecorino will fill the bill.

Let’s get on with it, as I can hear Norma wailing at the pyre now – and it is hard on the ears!!



Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 25-30 minutes


1 lb. Cooked Pasta (I like a chunky pasta for this like Ziti, Mezza Rigatoni, Strozzapreti, Fusilli Pugliese, Penne etc.)

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Early Girl Tomatoes, or Campari Tomatoes – cut

4 Cups Sliced and Cut Eggplant as shown in photo (peeled or unpeeled)

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

1/3 Cup Chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 Cup Pignoli Nuts (pine nuts)

1 1/2 Cups Pitted Castelvetrano Olives

Shaved Ricotta Salata Cheese ( you can substitute Pecorino if needed)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Cook the pasta according to package directions.

You can press your eggplant a couple of hours ahead if you like to rid it of any bitterness. Do this by slicing it and layering between paper towels. Then put some heavy weight on top. After a couple of hours, discard the paper towels and proceed with the eggplant as suggested.

Norma 1

Choose some gorgeous ripe sweet tomatoes for this. These are “Early Girls”.

Norma 2

Mix the tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes together in a bowl.

Pour olive oil and vinegar over the top of the above, add salt and pepper, and mix gently.

Pour onto a baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until the eggplant is fork tender and to your liking.

Norma 3

Add the olives and the pignoli and gently toss.

Pour all of this over the cooked pasta immediately along with any juices in the pan. Mix together.

Top with shaved Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Cheese.

Add a drizzle of a nice peppery extra virgin olive oil.

Serve your PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA at room temperature or cold, if you like, as your main course or as a beautiful side dish with a nice bottle of Sicilian red – like a Nero D’Avola.


  Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.



Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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August: Pesto Potatoes

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Buon giorno!

They say that in the coastal areas of the region of Liguria, the aroma of pesto permeates the air. This is not the same pesto that you see in the jars at your grocer – far from it! Many who say they do not care for it, have only this rather pathetic version in the jar from which to draw reference. Instead, this is the real thing, made from fresh picked herbs, fresh garlic, nuts (more traditionally pignoli) and the best extra virgin olive oil.

Now THIS is pesto!

Pesto Potatoes 3 with script

Your kitchen will smell like Liguria when you make PESTO POTATOES. This delicious dish, charged with immense flavor, is a beautiful accompaniment to any grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

In Liguria, most people grow their own basil. These days many of us here in the US grow our own as well. Fortunately, in more recent times, it is now always available at our local markets. So we can enjoy this amazing aromatic fresh herb all year round. Pesto can be ours at any time, just as in Liguria, anytime we want to make it. The wonderful thing about it is that it is soooo easy. If you have a few fresh ingredients and a blender – you can make your own! Dine like a true Ligurian, and prepare their signature green sauce for your own “Italian table!”.

PESTO POTATOES are fun to serve. Not only do they taste great ,but also this potato dish makes a beautiful presentation on your table. The potatoes bathe in the beautiful green sauce and more color pops through with the addition of sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes also contribute a touch of sweetness brightening this largely savory dish.

These potatoes will disappear quickly! Serve them at your next grilling extravaganza!


Makes: 1 1/2-2 lb. potatoes

Prep: 30 minutes


1 1/2-2 lb. Small White Potatoes – skins on – cooked

2 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Large Clove Fresh Garlic

3/4 C. Toasted Walnuts

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil – chopped small

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish


Cook your potatoes and then slice them in half – or leave them whole if they are especially small.

Place the basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper in a blender.

Pesto Potatoes 1

Run your blender while adding all of your oil slowly through the top in a stream as the mixture becomes a smooth paste. It will become a beautiful green color.

Pesto Potatoes 2

If it seems too dry – add more oil.

Taste for seasoning. It is important to add enough salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of this sauce.

Pour this pesto sauce over the cooked potatoes and gently toss.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and toss again.

Pesto Potatoes 5

Garnish with shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve at room temperature.


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

Finish - Trapanese with script

Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!


Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes


1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!


Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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